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Der Spiegel


  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    American Stasi spy tells his story

    One of East Germany's top spies was actually an American soldier. Jeff Carney defected to the Communist state in 1983 and fed the notorious Stasi with reams of valuable information. He has now written a book about his experiences.Berlin's Marienfelde district in the fall of 1983: The day Jeff Carney helped save the world was just four hours old. Carney, a 20-year-old surveillance specialist with the United States Air Force, was sitting in the early morning in front of the equipment he used to eavesdrop on the East. He was on the night shift, and there was nothing special to report.Then his supervisor told him about a secret operation that was set to take place just a few hours later. It was a war game of sorts, and it involved US fighter jets that would come within threatening range of Soviet airspace, triggering alarm signals on the Russians' radar screen and a general state of confusion. The planners expected that the other side would become so unnerved over the maneuver that emergency response procedures would be set in motion, revealing them to US reconnaissance.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Namibia scraps German place names

    Until recently, Namibia's history as a German colony was emblazoned across its map. Now the government has decided to replace the names of several municipalities with those of a more indigenous origin. But not everyone is happy about the move.Like much of Africa, the Caprivi Region of Namibia has long carried the imprint of European colonialism. Once in the possession of Germany, many streets, towns and regions carry German names. There are Schultzes and Meinerts among the locals, and German is the mother tongue for a local minority.But now, nearly a century after the end of German colonial rule, the Namibian government has decided to replace many of these German names with those of a more indigenous lineage.Caprivi is now Zambezi, after the river that runs through the region. A tropical strip of land that juts off from the country's northeast corner, it was named by the Germans after Count Leo von Caprivi, a Franco-German War veteran who succeeded Otto von Bismark as chancellor of imperial Germany....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Badger digs up medieval treasure in Germany

    A badger helped discover the tombs of two medieval lords in Germany in what archaeologists are hailing as a significant find. The 12th century burial site contains a sword, bronze bowls, an ornate belt buckle and skeletal remains that tell stories of a violent life. A badger in Germany deserves a reward for making a significant archaeological discovery: the medieval tombs of two Slavic lords buried with an array of intriguing artefacts.The striped animal, perfectly equipped for digging with its short legs, had made its underground home on a farm in the town of Stolpe in Brandenburg, some 75 kilometers northeast of Berlin....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    German towns struggle with honorary citizen Adolf Hitler

    They tend to be names that few have ever heard of, places like Bassum, Helsa, Nittendorf-Etterzhausen or Nortorf. But periodically such small towns in Germany find their way into the headlines due to a peculiar characteristic they share: They are, or were until recently, on the list of communities that never withdrew honorary citizenship from Adolf Hitler once the Third Reich came crashing down in 1945.Now, a new town has recently become the focus of unwanted attention as a result of its antiquated honorary citizenship rolls. Goslar, the hometown of Social Democratic Party head Sigmar Gabriel, is currently planning to finally revoke the honor it bestowed on the Führer back in the 1930s.But should it? Gabriel, surprisingly, thinks the answer to that question should be no. In comments made recently, the center-left political leader said: "It is an attempt to whitewash something that can't be whitewashed," he said. He added that he used to be in favor of removing Hitler from the honorary rolls, but that his views have changed. "Today, I think it is almost wrong to do that."...

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Germany still burying Eastern Front dead from WWII

    Germany will open its last big war cemetery in Russia on Saturday, marking the culmination of a huge effort to recover Wehrmacht soldiers killed on its Eastern Front in World War II.By the end of this year, the German war graves commission will have found and reburied a total of 800,000 soldiers in Eastern Europe and Russia since 1992, when the former Eastern bloc countries began helping Germany retrieve the remains of missing soldiers following the end of the Cold War.On Saturday, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière will hold a speech at the inauguration of the new war cemetery at the town of Dukhovschina, near the city of Smolensk in western Russia.....

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Tomb raiders exploit chaos in Egypt

    Egypt's cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever....In January 2011, the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo was looted. Rioters destroyed priceless treasures. But valuable ancient relics went missing far from the capital, as well, due to a lack of supervision at historical sites. After the uprising, the repressive security apparatus withdrew everywhere, and the guarding of historical sites was neglected.Two-and-a-half years later, the police are slowly venturing into the streets. But they are mainly concerned with ongoing protests. Elsewhere, some Egyptians are behaving as if the state and its laws have ceased to exist.The army has placed two armored vehicles at the pyramids in Dahshur to deter grave robbers. But, so far, the thieves are undaunted. "We wanted to catch them," says a guard in Dahshur who asked to remain anonymous. "But then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons." He and his fellow guards were only armed with pistols. They jumped for cover, and the grave robbers carried on with their plundering....

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    'An anxious continent': Walter Laqueur on Europe's decline

    British-American historian Walter Laqueur experienced the demise of the old Europe and the rise of the new. In a SPIEGEL interview, he shares his gloomy forecast for a European Union gripped by debt crisis. SPIEGEL: Mr. Laqueur, you experienced Europe and the Europeans in the best and the worst of times. Historical hot spots and the stations of your personal biography were closely and sometimes dramatically intertwined. Which conclusions have you reached today, at the advanced age of 92?Laqueur: I became a historian of the postwar era in Europe, but the Europe I knew no longer exists. My book "Out of the Ruins of Europe," published in 1970, ended with an optimistic assessment of the future. Later, in 2008, "The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent" was published. I returned to the subject in my latest book, "After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent." The sequence of titles probably says it all.SPIEGEL: The last two, at any rate, sound as if the demise of the Western world were imminent.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    'Vampire cemetery' found in Poland

    Construction workers building a road near the town of Gliwice in southern Poland this month came across four skeletons buried in a bizarre way. Their skulls had been cut off and placed between the knees or hands of the dead. Later, a further 13 skeletons arranged in a similar way were found.Adding to the mystery, nothing -- no jewellery, remains of clothing or coins, not even a button -- was found on the bodies.Archaeologists now believe that the bodies date from the 15th or 16th centuries, when the fear of vampires was widespread in Eastern Europe. Lukasz Obtulowicz, an archaeologist from the monument protection office in the nearby city of Katowice, said there were clear indications that this was the site of a vampire burial, noting that stones had been placed on the skulls. "All this served to prevent the vampires from returning to life," he said in a television interview....

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Sunken WWI U-Boats a bonanza for historians

    British archaeologists recently discovered more than 40 German U-boats sunk during World War I off the coast of England. Now they are in a race against time to learn the secrets hidden in their watery graves.On the old game show "What's My Line?" Briton Mark Dunkley might have been described with the following words: "He does what many adventurers around the world can only dream of doing."Dunkley is an underwater archeologist who dives for lost treasures. His most recent discoveries were anything if not eerie.On the seafloor along the southern and eastern coasts of the UK, Dunkley and three other divers have found one of the largest graveyards in the world's oceans, with 41 German and three English submarines from World War I. Most of the submarines sank with their crews still on board, causing many sailors to die in horrific ways, either by drowning or suffocating in the cramped and airtight submarines....

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Luther pamphlets swiped from museum

    Three elaborately printed pamphlets containing writings by church reformer Martin Luther have been stolen from a small museum in Eisenach. Historians say the theft of the leaflets, worth about 60,000 euros, is a blow to Europe's cultural memory.Church authorities and historians in Germany have reacted with shock to the news that three original printed pamphlets containing writings by Martin Luther were stolen from a museum in Eisenach, Germany, last Friday.A member of staff at the Lutherhaus museum in Eisenach noticed that the 16th-century papers were missing from a glass case at 2 p.m. last Friday afternoon.Even though the pamphlets are printed, they are unique because they contain hand-written notes by contemporaries of Luther....

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    Mystery of the forest swastikas

    Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.Blame it on the larches. Brandenburg native Günter Reschke was the first one to notice their unique formation, according to a 2002 article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. To be more precise, however, it was the new intern at Reschke's landscaping company, Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn't difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Indelible memory of Kennedy's speech in Berlin

    A pair of slippers awaits visitors at the entrance of a cozy two-room apartment in Berlin's Westend district -- the kind one might expect in one of Berlin's many old palaces and villas. But those looking for any valuable antiques here will be disappointed. Instead, every inch of wall space is covered with old photographs. The centerpiece of the collection is a black-and-white shot of John F. Kennedy waving from an open limousine.The day Werner Eckert took the snapshot is still vividly engrained in his mind. It was one of the most influential events of the 81 year old's life. On June 26, 1963, the 35th American president came to visit West Berlin in a demonstration of solidarity with the people living in the divided city."There was never anyone like Kennedy before," Eckert says, recalling the visit. "You had a feeling you could immediately become friends with him. He may have been the most powerful man in the world, but his charisma immediately made you lose any reservations."...

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Politics slow archaeologists in Turkey

    It used to be easy for foreign archaeology teams to get excavation permits in Turkey. This year, though, dozens of scientists are still waiting for government permission even though the dig season has begun. Some suspect that politics and nationalism are in play.On the surface, the mood is buoyant at the annual archaeology conference in southern Turkey. Eager academics, more than a few of them clad in khaki vests and breathable pants, engage in animated conversation as they network and discuss their pet projects. Outside, a warm sun is shining.But looks are deceiving. For many of those present, the future is filled with uncertainty. The Turkish government in Ankara has still not granted annual permits to many of the excavations that the careers of the scientists present depend on. And there is concern that the reason for the delay has much more to do with the state of Turkey's relations with the West than with the merits of the projects in question....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Secret photos of Hitler's bunker

    Robert Conrad knew things could get uncomfortable. There were the guards, the explosions, the dark tunnels. He could easily stumble across a detonation in progress, run into a policeman or even land himself in jail.And yet, in the summer of 1987, Conrad donned a construction worker's coverall and a hardhat and hid his camera, a Praktica model with a 35-millimeter wide-angle lens, in a leather shoulder bag of the type carried by many workers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) at the time. To lend his disguise verisimilitude, Conrad made sure a Thermos jug could be seen poking out of his bag. He wanted to be absolutely sure to look just like any normal construction worker.Thus disguised, the photographer snuck up to the fence around the construction site on Berlin's Otto Grotewohl Strasse and climbed over the barrier. Once inside, he had to suppress the impulse to start running. "I walked very slowly across the site, as if on eggshells, so no one would notice me," he recalls. Conrad was uneasy. Where was the entrance into this underworld of dark concrete ruins that had been buried for decades under Berlin's streets? Would he be able to climb down into the infamous "Führer's bunker," where Adolf Hitler shot himself in April 1945?...

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    The Nazi granddaddy of crystal meth

    "Alertness aid" read the packaging, to be taken "to maintain wakefulness." But "only from time to time," it warned, followed by a large exclamation point.The young soldier, though, needed more of the drug, much more. He was exhausted by the war, becoming "cold and apathetic, completely without interests," as he himself observed. In letters sent home by the army postal service, he asked his family to send more. On May 20, 1940, for example, he wrote: "Perhaps you could obtain some more Pervitin for my supplies?" He found just one pill was as effective for staying alert as liters of strong coffee. And -- even better -- when he took the drug, all his worries seemed to disappear. For a couple of hours, he felt happy.This 22-year-old, who wrote numerous letters home begging for more Pervitin, was not just any soldier -- he was Heinrich Böll, who would go on to become one of Germany's leading postwar writers and win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. And the drug he asked for is now illegal, notoriously so. We now know it as crystal meth....

  • Originally published 04/03/2013

    Hitler's food taster: one bite away from death

    It might have been something as simple as a portion of white asparagus. Peeled, steamed and served with a delicious sauce, as Germans traditionally eat it. And with real butter, a scarcity in wartime. While the rest of the country struggled to get even coffee, or had to spread margarine diluted with flour on their bread, Margot Wölk could have savored the expensive vegetable dish -- if not for the fear of dying, that is. Wölk was one of 15 young women who were forced to taste Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's food for some two and a half years during World War II.The 24-year-old secretary had fled from her parents' bombed-out Berlin apartment in the winter of 1941, traveling to her mother-in-law's home in the East Prussian village of Gross-Partsch, now Parcz, Poland. It was an idyllic, green setting, and she lived in a house with a large garden. But less than three kilometers (1.9 miles) away was the location that Hitler had chosen for his Eastern Front headquarters -- the Wolf's Lair....